Fueling your body while nursing can be a challenge and it becomes even more difficult if your baby has a dairy or soy food allergy. This article offers ideas on how to know if you should go dairy/soy free and what you can eat to get plenty of calcium. We urge you, though, to consult with your pediatrician for more information regarding this topic.
Signs that your Baby is Allergic to Dairy or Soy
In general, breastfed babies are quite tolerant of most things their Moms eat. Lots of Grandmas have told tales of how certain foods make babies gassy or fussy and most of these are just stories! First off, always listen to your body and your baby’s reaction. Obviously if a certain food has always bothered you, you shouldn’t eat it while nursing (even if it is packed with nutrition!).
The most common problem food for nursing babies is cow’s milk and this is one of the few foods scientifically linked with fussiness. Signs to look for in your baby if you suspect a food allergy:
- Gassiness or fussiness after nursing (similar to colic)
- Congestion and stuffiness, sometimes wheezing or asthma
- Inconsolable crying or obvious discomfort
- Disrupted sleep due to discomfort
- Family history of food allergies
- Skin conditions (hives, eczema, frequent diaper rash, or dry, itchy patches of skin)
- Digestive upset (spitting up, gas, diarrhea or constipation, changes in stool color)
Unfortunately all of the above can be related to numerous other causes so the only way to know for sure is to eliminate the suspect food from your diet and chart your baby’s reaction. If a baby is allergic to cow’s milk, this is more than lactose intolerance. It is sensitivity to the proteins in milk that can pass through your breast milk and it can take up to 21 days before a Mom’s body is cleared of these proteins. So, you must eliminate dairy (not just switch to lactose-free) and watch labels of everything because dairy is present in a lot of foods. Be patient, it will take time to test out your theory.
Also worth noting: babies who are allergic to cow’s milk are often allergic to soy and are unable to tolerate goat or sheep milk. Some may even react to beef products.
The good news is most babies outgrow this sensitivity and will not have long-term allergy concerns. But, again, we urge you to consult with your pediatrician.
What to Eat Instead of Milk, Cheese, or Yogurt.
While nursing, you need 1000 mg of calcium each day. This keeps your bones strong and provides good nutrition to the baby. Eliminating dairy products could leave you short of this essential nutrient so try these foods instead. Be sure to read the label of any packaged food as many have hidden dairy or soy ingredients. Look for “whey” or “lactose” also on the label as that indicates a dairy product.
Surprising Foods that are High in Calcium
Dark, leafy greens: broccoli, kale, parsley, spinach, and kale (1 cup has an average of 175 mg)
Dried Beans (4 oz, cooked = 160 mg): chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans (also a good source of protein)
Canned salmon with bones (3 oz = 180 mg): Also high in Vitamin B12, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and a source of natural Vitamin D. Choose wild-caught salmon when possible.
Rice milk, if fortified with calcium (8 oz = 300 mg)
Black strap molasses (two tablespoons = 300 mg)
Rhubarb (1 cup = 300 mg)
Food fortified with calcium such as orange juice, cereals, or breads.
Almonds or almond milk, sesame seeds, or chia seeds: high in calcium but also a great source of protein, fiber, and Vitamins and Minerals. (If you have a family history of nut allergies, it’s best to avoid nuts in the first few months of nursing).
Ask for Help!
Enjoy this special time with your baby and don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are lots of resources online for breastfeeding and food allergies and your obstetrician or pediatrician can help you navigate this issue. Don’t go it alone!
If you’d like a quick snack boost that’s dairy-free, try our Vegan Snacks Box. The owner of The Good Grocer went through this very issue with her own kiddos and has built her company around providing healthy snacks for those with food allergies. We’re here to help. Shop the Vegan Choices here.